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Record Review: Japandroids’ Celebration Rock

By / Posted on 11 June 2012

Japandroids — Celebration RockLet’s talk about Japandroids for a minute, shall we? Odds are that if you already have an opinion on Japandroids, it’s enthusiastically positive. The Vancouver duo exploded onto the scene in 2009 and brought with them a wave of unprecedented noise that was absolutely lacking in the landscape of contemporary rock music. Debut LP Post-Nothing felt immediately raw and unencumbered by pretention or ambiguous goals. In just over a half-hour, Brian King and David Prowse buried listeners with a deeply emotional grunge-shouting contest about the fear of growing old and partying as though your life depends on it, because it very well may. Contained within the power chords and cymbal crashes were direct and plaintive lyrics about the perils of the aging hipster. “We used to dream, now we worry about dying.

Flash-forward three years. Japandroids are a sizable critical success, a scenario they never envisioned for themselves. Fame has made them a bit uncomfortable. How do King and Prowse convey these confusing new emotions on a second proper LP? In the case of Celebration Rock, with incredible gusto. King wraps it up pretty neatly with the lyrics to album opener, “The Nights of Wine and Roses”:

We all want to know what nobody knows
What the nights of wine and roses hold
For the wine and roses of our souls
So we down our drinks in a funnel of friends
And we burn our blends right down to the end
We don’t cry for those nights to arrive
We yell like hell to the heavens

The one-take recordings and fervent energy of the duo is the closest a rock record has come in years to feeling like a privatized festival performance. Celebration Rock is louder and more verbose than its immediate and furious-about-growing-up predecessor. The word that immediately comes to mind across the majority of these eight tracks is “anthemic.” Herein are rallying cries for the reluctantly aging hipster. Mission statement “Younger Us” plainly pines for simpler rebellious days, fully aware that our aging bodies can simply no longer maintain the continuous strain of party after party that defines both the rock and hipster demographics.

Indeed, the greatest challenge posed by Celebration Rock may be upon it’s listeners to not raise their fists and scream along with its choruses. Even the most unfamiliar of audiences will likely be swept along with the OH YEAH!s and ALL RIGHT!s of “Evil’s Sway.” The call-and-response chorus of “The House That Heaven Built” is probably the greatest rock achievement of 2012. For a band that had broken up before the release of their massively successful debut, Japandroids seem more grateful and self-aware than many other bands would be in their position. “You’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.